I Don’t Have to Respond

It’s really weird when it suddenly occurs to you that you’ve been operating under a self-imposed rule. Because, just like that, you realize that if you were the one making the rule in the first place, then, hey, you don’t have to follow it anymore, do you? Ah, the freedom!

For example, if you live alone, you don’t have to make the bed if you don’t want to! Woo hoo! If you’re the only one who ever sees the back yard, you only have to mow it when you feel like it. Sweet!

I had one of those epiphanies just the other day. Here it is: I don’t have to respond to everything. That’s huge.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in common courtesy. I make it a point to say thank you and excuse me. That’s the type of lubrication that’s required to keep a civilized society running smoothly.

But I don’t have to respond to unsolicited advice. I don’t have to correct rude behavior (unless I’m looking for closure). I don’t have to explain myself or justify anything. (But I still believe in doing the right thing.)

Just because someone asks an idiotic question, that doesn’t mean I’m obliged to answer. Not every comment requires my input. Not every insult needs to be avenged.

There’s also really no point in carrying your side of an argument if, when all is said and done, it’s not going to change a thing. Your energy is limited. Save it for the positive stuff.

Sometimes it’s okay to let the other person have the last, stupid, selfish word. Whoa. What a concept.

Boy, oh boy, am I about to save myself a heck of a lot of time!


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Not long ago, I had a good dog. He was my best friend. He was my emotional bedrock. In a time when all the sand seems to be shifting beneath my feet, he was the one living thing that I could count on.

And then I went to dinner.

And when I got back home, he was dying.

I didn’t know it at first. I didn’t want to see it. But he was lying on the living room floor, listless. He wouldn’t eat. He never does that. He wasn’t acting as if he was in pain, though, so I thought I’d take him to the vet first thing in the morning, and everything would be fine. Just fine. Just like he had been before I went to dinner. After all, he was only 10.

I dragged a mattress into the living room and we slept side by side for the last time. Not once did it occur to me that it would be the last time. I thought maybe he had had a seizure. I’ve had dogs that suffered with seizures before. We could handle this.

At 8 am I was waiting with him as the vet unlocked the doors. By 9:30 I was putting him to sleep. I kept thinking, “This isn’t how the day was supposed to go.”

It seems he had a tumor on his heart, and it burst and filled up the pericardium, the sac around his heart, with blood. That pressure was making it hard for his heart to beat. They say he felt no pain. He was just getting increasingly sleepy as his blood wasn’t giving his body the needed oxygen. So I did the right thing.

Next thing I knew, I was burying him.

This wasn’t how the day was supposed to go. And now nothing will ever be the same.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a sudden transformation. I think we all experienced one on 9/11. And I definitely experienced one when the sheriff called me to tell me my boyfriend was dead. And many of us experienced one when Trump was elected.

That there is so much potential to wake up and find your world irrevocably changed terrifies me beyond words. You can’t anticipate it. You can’t control it. Things happen.

I know it will happen to me again, probably many times in my life. I can’t predict these things. There’s nothing I can do to prepare for them. And that makes me feel sick. So I try not to dwell on it.

Not all transformations are necessarily negative, though. I love waking up to a snow-covered landscape when I went to bed to one that was green. I love those rare moments of clarity that we call epiphanies. I love meeting someone that I can tell is going to influence me in one way or another. I love learning something new.

But I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t trade all that to have my dog back.

My last Christmas with Devo.

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